Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #6 - Voice Over Agents

This is basically a reprise of a previous blog with a few additions. I felt it would be easier for those of you who are following my "Voice Talent Advice" segments to have it's title formated the same as the others, and as I mentioned there are a few additions.

A voice talent agent is often necessary for you to work in any given city. Ad agencies and casting directors look to talent agents to provide master demos, recommendations, and voice over auditions for specific projects. Where do you start? How do you find an agent? In addition to asking professional recording studios about local agents, get a list of the AFTRA and SAG franchised voice over talent agents in your area – they are the most reputable as they are bound by agreements to the performers unions. They can't require that you purchase classes or photos from them. They can make lists available to you with the names of photographers and teachers, but they may not provide the services themselves. They are certainly not allowed to require the voice talent or on camera talent that they represent to purchase services such as those in order to be represented. They do not charge you any fees for representation, although many agents do ask you to pay a portion of the expenses incurred for your inclusion on their master demos. Generally, they make money taking a commission on work they get for you.

The biggest agency in town is not necessarily the best place for a newcomer. If the agency handles a large number of working voice over talent, you may not get called for as many auditions. On the other hand, if you go with a smaller voice talent agency with a small voice talent pool, they may not get as many of the calls from the advertising agencies or casting directors. Experiences of other performers you talk to, common sense and your gut feeling will have to prevail. When you interview with an agent, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you! Do your personalities mesh? Do they seem to be genuinely interested in you? How do they market the talent? Are they energetic and enthusiastic?

If you’re going to seek voice over work via the internet, you’ll probably want to list with several voice talent sites which in many ways act as an online voice talent agent. They generally don't negotiate for you or represent you in the traditional role of a real world agent, but they function as a virtual voice talent agent in that they provide a place to list you and your voice talent services. Of course, they are not franchised agents, but more like listing services, and most of them charge a yearly listing fee. Again, if you can check with other talent to see what their experience has been with listing on a particular site, it might be helpful. But keep in mind, that whether they’re getting work or not does not necessarily mean you will have the same experience. As with a regular voice talent agent, some of it comes down to trial and error. You have to test the water to see what and who works best for you. Some sites charge around $200 for a yearly listing including all the bells and whistles – your own web page with space to upload many demos, and some even allow video! There are other sites that charge far less – but may work out better for you! There are some sites that charge much, much more and may not get you any work at all! Know that these listings, like your real world voice over agent, help you get auditions and find work, but you still have to do as much marketing of yourself as possible. Many agents, like the web sites, basically just list you and your demos, but do not promote you specifically. They’re not out there on a daily basis representing just you to potential clients. They’re representing their “pool” of talent. However, a good agent will, of course, recommend you specifically for projects for which you are well suited. Still, you can’t just sit back and wait for that phone to ring!

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